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Sugar Maple Borer (Glycobius speciosus)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Sugar Maple Borer

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Image Credit: Brooke S. from NY
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The showy Sugar Maple Borer adult gives rise to pesky larvae that cause all kinds of stress to trees, tappers, and the lumber industry.

Updated: 02/16/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The yellow markings on the Sugar Maple Borer are hard to miss. Starting by the rear end, the black wing coverings look like they were dipped in bright yellow paint. A single black dot in the center may or may not have a black band above it. A curved yellow line crosses the elytra (wing coverings) near the middle of the wings like a loose belt. A 'W'-shaped yellow line zig-zags across the upper elytra, near the 'shoulders', and it is filled with two angled yellow lines on each side. If its head and thorax are bent down, three yellow dots are visible where the 'neck' and top of the wings connect. The thorax has a black center with two yellow lines on each side. A yellow band sits at the bottom of the head, and more yellow may fill in between the eyes. The long, segmented antennae are black. Legs are yellow with brownish feet.

Once the adult beetle is identified, it is worth the time to examine the maple trees nearby. Strange marks and bulges in a tree's bark can indicate the presence of young beetle grubs and pupae inside the tree. The Sugar Maple Borer lays fertilized eggs on the the Sugar Maple Tree. The tiny, wormy larvae burrow into the sapwood of the tree and tunnel their way round. Adult beetles emerge in two years, leaving plenty of time for exploration and feeding. In the process of moving throughout the wood, larvae cut off vascular tissue that allows the tree to move water and nutrients up and down. Sometimes larvae move horizontally across the trunk, causing the tree to have raised scars that look like smiles. Larvae can grow up to 5 cm long (almost 2 inches) and cause wood discoloration and decay inside the wood. They also dig deeper into the wood just before winter, creating 'J'-shaped tunnels and twisted grain. These defects render the lumber less valuable for use (flooring, cabinetry, furniture). The disruption in water and nutrient flow can negatively affect sap production, too. Native Americans taught early colonists how to identify and tap into the sugar maple tree's vascular tissue in order to collect some of its sap. Today, the boiled sap, or syrup is a billion-dollar industry. Maple syrup production relies on this tree species. Though this beetle has not devastated forests of maple trees, its negative handiwork makes it a pest. Forestry management strategies to control its population size are implemented in the northeastern states and provinces where the maple syrup production thrives. Removing heavily infested trees before summer and pruning infested limbs helps curb beetle population growth. Inserting thin wire into larval holes to kill them also helps reduce the amount of damage done inside trees.

Sugar maple trees are the only species that the Sugar Maple Borer uses as a host plant. Learning to recognize that particular maple tree along with this particular beetle gives insight into what it happening in that forested area. There are other black and yellow borers that look similar to this one, but they do not use the sugar maple tree. There are a variety of types of maple trees, but they are not used by this beetle. The relationship between this beetle and the sugar maple is exclusive.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Sugar-Maple-Borer-Beetle

sugar maple trees
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Pest insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Cerambycidae
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          Genus: Glycobius
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            Species: speciosus

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Glycobius speciosus
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 23mm to 27mm (0.90" to 1.06")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow
Descriptors: W; V; lines; zig-zag; bee; flying; pest; tree scar

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 23mm (0.9in) and 27mm (1.1in)
Lo: 23mm
Md: 25mm
Hi: 27mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Sugar Maple Borer may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Sugar Maple Borer. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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